So often, among fellow mothers at the school gate, I hear moans that Malta’s museums lag way behind other EU countries – Scandinavia and Britain in particular – when it comes to activities for kids. My son spent an entire afternoon on a mock-up ‘archaeological dig’ at an Iron Age hill fort in southern England last summer. And had a ball dressed up as a Roman Gladiator at an open day – with ‘live’ gladiatorial fights – at a Roman Villa museum also in the UK. I did of course pay for what I got, as family entrance tickets weren’t that cheap!
In Malta, few and far between are the museums and heritage sites that have even the simplest of hands-on activities or questionnaires for kids to fill in as they go round a site or collection. Palazzo Falson in Mdina is an exception, but (given the type of collection it houses) kids have to be six to enter. So, a lot of families miss this fine building as they have kids of differing ages. We parents in Malta, have got very good at inventing our own games as we tour local sights and museums. No harm in that. But perhaps, occasionally, tired parents would love some sort of info or activities to help us interpret the heritage that bit better!
To be fair, heritage sites have done more in recent years, and are thinking more pro-actively about their younger ‘customers’. Arts’ venues like St James Cavalier lead the way with busy programmes for children. City festivals, like those at Mdina and Birgu, are always popular with kids. And this weekend is also a case in point; it’s World Children’s Day on Sunday 22 November, and to celebrate it, Heritage Malta, the country’s national heritage agency, is opening the doors of several Valletta museums for kids’ events. Taking part are the National Museum of Archaeology, the Grand Masters Palace and the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta. Participant numbers are limited: for details, see below.
Malta Children’s Festival also runs this month and into next, with events and activities ranging from theatre (performance and workshops) to crafts, science, technology, film, theatre, dance, music, sports, history and traditions. Saturdays in the programme see workshops in Valletta’s heritages sites – the Old Opera House, for instance.
The month, running up to 6 December, is being organised by the Education and Culture Ministry to celebrate 2009 as the European Year of Creativity & Innovation. This first Malta Children’s Festival is aimed at “helping children connect to the arts and culture in an inspiring, entertaining and impressive manner”. Long may those aims live! Contact: tel: 79001551; website: www.childrensfestivalmalta.com
Heritage Malta kids’ programme: 22 November
Grand Masters Palace: two activities – a guided tour and a drawing session – at 10.00 hrs and at 14.00 hrs.
National Museum of Archaeology: a Memory Game and a Mystery Object Game at 13.00 hrs and 14.00 hrs respectively.
National Museum of Fine Arts: From 10.00hrs onwards, children will be able to participate in a treasure hunt in the museum and at 11.00 hrs there will be a guided tour.
How to Participate & Book:
Children under 12 years of age can participate in all the events free of charge, but booking is necessary. According to Heritage Malta, it’s now too late to officially book as the offices aren’t open to take calls tomorrow Saturday. But, they did say it might be worth turning up early at the museum you’re interested in, and seeing if they have a space. All adults visiting the three sites between 10.00hrs and 15.00 hrs will be pay half the usual price. The contact numbers given are: email:firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 23954239 or 23954242. See also Heritage Malta for museum opening times on Sunday.